In the words of her family, Carol Jacobson was:
A spontaneous gift buyer.
A dirty-fingernails girl.
A woman of marvelous ability, character and fortitude.
The greatest mom, the greatest daughter, a real blessing.
Jacobson's family and several friends congregated Thursday at the Moffat County home of her youngest son, Isaac, 24, and told stories about her life and what she meant to them - and will always mean to them - after her death Wednesday.
Jacobson died during the second day of a planned four-day rafting trip through Ladore Canyon in Dinosaur National Monument.
According to a news release from the National Park Service, which is leading the investigation, her raft overturned in the middle of Triplet Falls, and she was unresponsive after members of the rafting party brought her out of the water.
They conducted CPR for about an hour before a commercial group notified the Park Service by satellite phone and assisted with transporting Jacobson to Echo Park, where an ambulance was waiting to transport her.
The Park Service has not determined a cause of death and does not expect to know more information for a few weeks.
Jacobson was 54.
Memorial services are pending.
In each of their stories, Jacobson's family members described a woman who never ceased to amaze those who knew her best, even from the very beginning.
She was born Dec. 13, 1954, to her mother, Loita Mauer, under unusual circumstances.
Jacobson was to be her first child, but when doctors told Mauer the baby was in a dangerous position inside her womb - legs caught, with one up and one down - Mauer was scared.
As she would come to understand, however, her daughter was not one to let circumstances hold her back.
"I had no idea if she was going to be born," Mauer said. "I guess, looking back at it, I should have known better."
Jacobson was born healthy and ready for her mother's arms.
"I think it made a difference in her life, though, having to struggle so much at the very beginning," Mauer said.
As Jacobson grew older, Mauer said her daughter never seemed to be scared of hardship.
Not when she worked at separate homes for disturbed adolescents and juvenile boys after college.
Not when she wanted to move back to Craig after living about 30 years in Denver.
Not when she rented space in the back of Serendipity Cafe & Coffee Shop to open Downtown Books, the business she has run with Caroline Dotson the past few years.
"I always just presumed she couldn't do all the things she was able to do," Mauer said. "I always just marveled at what a wonderful person she became. I marveled at her abilities."
She added she will remember her daughter thus:
"I thought the next time I talked to her, I was going to say how sweet it was having her here again," Mauer said. "She's the daughter that I wish my mother had had in me. I just couldn't have asked for anything more in a daughter. She was absolutely wonderful."
Jacobson's son, Isaac, said failure was never a possibility for his mother. The fact that she was doing something she believed in - whatever it was at the time - was enough for her, and enough for him.
"She kind of had that free spirit," he said. "I never thought about winning and losing for her. If she had something she wanted to do, if it was part of a dream of hers, anything at all, she was going to live it."
Time and again, Jacobson's family said it was the little things that made her what she was.
When she was in elementary school and her mother suffered from anemia, Jacobson made it a point to always wash the dishes to save her mother's strength.
Jacobson was renowned in her family for buying "perfect gifts." Not extravagant things that made loud noises or cost hundreds of dollars, but presents like a handmade Three Stooges shrine, constructed out of wood for Isaac when he was doing stand-up comedy.
However, not all of her actions were small.
Jacobson took in foreign exchange students from Regis University, Isaac said.
She helped found the oral history group, Preserving the Last Frontier, and the Page Turners book club, volunteered with the Craig Centennial Committee and was working on publishing books of longtime local residents Stella Craig and Chuck Mack.
Her conviction never obeyed what seemed to be her limits, Jacobson's family said, no matter how much she already had taken on or how little time she had left for herself.
"She liked to see people change for the better, and she liked to help them along the way," Isaac said. "She wasn't trying to force it on them, but it was there, just in the pancakes she made in the morning."
Her father, Lou Wyman, said he will always remember Jacobson's strong spirit and take-charge personality, from the time she would rebel by rolling up her skirts to wear them short at school, to when she moved back to Moffat County a grown woman.
"She really did more than I thought when you put it all together," he said. "She was special."
Her husband, Craig City Councilor Terry Carwile, understood that after the third time he met her.
Since they married in January 2007 at a small proceeding at the Moffat County Courthouse, he's never looked back.
To him, Jacobson's purpose behind doing all the things she tried to do, little and big, was simple.
"She really thought she could make a difference," Carwile said. "Particularly here."
He first met Jacobson a few years ago when she interviewed him for a Moffat County Morning News story on alternative transportation, because he rode his bike to work at Trapper Mining Inc.
Some time later, he saw her on the street, and she told him about opening a new bookstore in Serendipity.
Carwile said he was stunned when he went to visit her for the first time.
He'll never forget what he saw, or the reaction that welled up inside him and never ebbed away, an exclamation that sums up Jacobson's legacy for some of those who knew her.
"When I saw her in that environment, it was an amazing change," he said. "She was not the same person.
"And I thought, 'Whoa.'"
Collin Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or email@example.com.